Studies have shown that after middle age, adults will on average lose three percent of their muscle strength with each passing year. This progressive loss of muscle strength has been associated with shorter life expectancy and reduced quality of life, when compared to individuals who have maintained normal muscle strength.
Loss of muscle mass – also known as sarcopenia – is a common consequence of the aging process and contributes to, weakness, balance instability, and age-related decline of health and well being.
Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to prevent muscle breakdown and the health impact of sarcopenia with age.
Use it or lose it
The muscles need regular use to maintain their strength and function. The ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle and immobility for prolonged periods of time lead to an accelerated muscle loss and weakness. Therefore, the first step for reducing the risk of sarcopenia is to reduce physical inactivity by adopting a consistent fitness routine. Research has shown that the best approach is to engage in aerobic and resistance training, along with balance exercises for maintaining muscle strength.
The body requires an adequate amount of calories and nutrients to function properly. A diet that lacks essential nutrients such as protein, fails to provide the building blocks necessary to grow, repair, and maintain muscle health. The latest nutrition recommendations suggest that healthy adults consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight and increase with greater physical activity levels. Try to include healthy portions of foods and snacks that are high in protein, throughout the day. Some high protein sources include fish, lean meats, eggs and dairy products, nuts and seeds, beans, and tofu.
Unfortunately, as we age, our digestion becomes weaker and without a strong digestive process, even a healthy diet may fail to provide essential nutrients required to maintain the health and function of your muscles. It’s important to support all aspects of the digestive sequence to maximize nutrient breakdown and absorption. Starting with the mouth by maintaining proper oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and chewing your food thoroughly. In general, you can consume smaller portions and eat more times to ensure adequate intake of nutrients and lessen the digestive burden of large, heavy meals. You can include a small cup of warm lime water before meals to stimulate digestion, support acidity, and promote digestive enzyme function.
Practice Wellness Promotion
The importance of staying healthy cannot be overstated and although there are numerous reasons to practice a wellness lifestyle, here’s one more benefit to consider. Chronic illness, such as inflammation, places significant stress on the mind and body. This prolonged stress response leads to the breakdown of muscle, as seen in chronic liver and kidney disease, as well as cancer. Also, the feeling of fatigue, soreness, and overall lack of well being discourages or hinders physical movement, resulting in muscle loss and weakness due to inactivity. When it comes to chronic illness, prevention through practicing a wellness lifestyle is possible.
By Dr. Jason Culp
Research & Development Director